How many people walk into your fire station every month? Which one will have a fire in their home, and which mother totes a Megan who will be a nameless fatality statistic in some report in a fire service database? Which one of your fire station visitors will have a fire in their homes that you will lose a firefighter in as a line-of-duty death? All because of a simple lack of education? Is this acceptable to us as a fire service profession?
Everyday your firefighters have contact with the public and odds are they will have contact with someone who will have a fire in their home. Imagine the impact your firefighters can make in fire prevention if they take one minute to provide an education, something as simple as the importance of having a smoke detector on every living floor of their home and closing bedroom doors.
This does not mean turning every one of your firefighters into a public presenter. This is a fundamental fear many firefighters have with fire prevention; that in order to do fire safety education they have to stand before and audience and give a presentation, which we all know not everyone can do, especially the blue-collar, hands-on, modest heroic people who join the fire service.
This does not mean doing elaborate programs with a strategic community analysis, pretests, PowerPoint and evaluations. It’s about your firefighters’ simple ability to take advantage of an opportunity and to have an educated conversation with a member of the public, the very public who looks upon them as experts in the field of fire, and their ability to deliver consistent and relevant information. It’s about all members of your fire department being educated on what the fire problem is and being able to provide a solution to their community’s problem when the opportunity arrives in a field they claim to be a professional in.
This Fire Prevention Week, dedicate yourself to a year-long program, and take the time to educate your firefighters on the basics of fire prevention. Train and encourage them to look for those hazards when in the homes in your community, and train them on how to educate the homeowner on how to properly correct it, or even how to properly correct it themselves. Their ability to do these simple tasks will not only result in the prevention of a fire, fire death or LODD, but their lack of knowledge can spread misinformation to the community at large and lead to increase risks, injury and death.
We all came into this profession to save lives, and the next person walking into your fire station may be the one whose life, or the lives of their children or elderly grandparents, need to be saved; or it is their home that you or your firefighter may enter into and never come out – your last alarm. Saving lives can be as easy as an educated conversation and can be done every day. Don’t waste the opportunity, because not only is it our job, and not only do your citizens expect it from professionals, but your life and the life of your firefighters depend on it as well.
Your Megan could be walking into your station today, don’t miss the opportunity to save her life and protect the lives of the firefighters you profess to love. Take advantage of this time, get educated and start having conversations.
DANIEL BYRNE, a Firehouse.com Contributing Editor, is a firefighter/paramedic, with the Burton, SC, Fire District. A 20-year veteran of the emergency services, he holds both an associate and bachelors degree in fire science, is a National Fire Academy Alumni, and a veteran of the Desert Shield/Storm war with the U.S. Marine Corps. Daniel is the recipient of local and state awards for public educations and relations. Daniel is moderator of the Fire Prevention and Life Safety forums on Firehouse. You can reach Daniel by e-mail at email@example.com.